Politics & Government

Coalition formed to fight animal cruelty initiative

Sep 25, 2012

A coalition has formed in opposition to the animal cruelty initiative that’s on the November ballot.

That initiative makes it a class “C” felony for cruelty to dogs, cats and horses. The group “North Dakota Animal Stewards” says the ballot measure is poorly worded, and may have unintended consequences. The group says an alternative measure – which would be introduced in the upcoming Legislature – would help prevent mistreatment of all animals.

The state of North Dakota is forecasted to have a $1.6 billion dollar surplus at the end of the biennium, which is June 30th, 2013.

Now the question: what do you do with the money?

"I'm already getting more requests than I imagined from people that want things," said House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R-Fargo).  Carlson says he has some ideas for how the money should be used. One is tax relief.

An attorney for locked-out American Crystal Sugar workers says those employees deserve unemployment benefits – because the lockout wasn’t their idea.

However, the company and Job Service-North Dakota say state law does not allow them to receive that benefit.

The dispute is now before the North Dakota Supreme Court. During oral arguments, attorney Daniel Phillips – representing more than 200 Crystal workers who were denied unemployment benefits – argues the lockout is not a strike called by the union.

Members of a group pushing for a new felony animal cruelty law say they deliberately limited the language so that agricultural practices would not be affected.

The initiated measure makes intentional cruelty to cats, dogs and horses a class “C” felony, punishable by a maximum five years in prison and a $5000 fine. The measure’s opponents point to the involvement of the Humane Society of the United States, and say HSUS may see this is as a way to gain a foothold in North Dakota, and add farm animals to the law.

Supporters say that's not the intent.

University Chancellor Ham Shirvani’s plan to end the practice of colleges and universities charging separate student fees is getting a thumbs-up from a state lawmaker who authored legislation for transparency in those fees.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Senator Kent Conrad is donating his official Senate documents to the George Washington University in Washington, DC. As Prairie Public’s Dave Thompson reports, those documents will also be available in electronic form at the state Heritage Center in Bismarck.

“Together, we have a unique opportunity to celebrate the career of a great American statesman, both in the city where he so effectively worked, and in the state he so ably represented," said George Washington University president Steven Knapp at a Bismarck ceremony to honor Conrad’s contribution.

Frustration over the farm bill

Aug 21, 2012

The president of the North Dakota Grain Growers has harsh words for the US House of Representatives.

"I'll tell you something -- if you had employees, and they weren't getting the job done, I don't think you'd give them a six-week vacation," said Dan Wogsland. "Congress decided to give itself a six week vacation. They've got some work to do."

Wogsland says Congress needs to pass a farm bill. The current farm bill expires Sept. 30th.

ND Chamber: Too easy to initiate measures?

Aug 20, 2012

The president of the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce says it might be too easy to get an initiated measure on the ballot in North Dakota.

"It's nice to have the will of the people to be able to get something on the ballot," said Andy Peterson. "But we're starting to believe, given all the measures that are coming up, we maybe need to look at making it a little more difficult to get something on the ballot."

Peterson says California, for example, got itself into a lot of trouble because of ballot measure after ballot measure.

Stenehjem asking for more BCI agents

Aug 20, 2012

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says he will be asking the next Legislature for more Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents.

"Our BCI agents are over-streched," said Stenehjem. "The population has increased. You know what's happening in western North Dakota. They are working day and night, and I worry about them burning out."

Stenehjem said the agents are dealing with increased gang activity – as well as organized crime moving into North Dakota.

State Hospital, correctional center work together

Aug 17, 2012

At the time, it was a very controversial decision – to build a new prison facility on the grounds of the state hospital in Jamestown.

But retiring state Human Services director Carol Olson says it has worked out well.

Olson says when the James River Correctional Center was proposed, her department sat down with groups like the Mental Health Association, who were concerned about the mixing of the traditional state hospital patients with people sentenced to prison.